The SEC has produced some of the highest rated safety prospects to come out of the draft throughout the last decade such as Alabama’s Mark Barron, the seventh overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft, Tennessee’s Eric Berry, the No. 5 overall pick of the 2010 Draft, and LSU’s LaRon Landry, the No. 6 overall pick in 2007.
It comes as little surprise then that the conference will once again be home to college football’s best eligible safety prospect in 2012, as LSU’s Eric Reid will now assume the honor left vacant by Barron.
Last season, Reid was overshadowed by his two more heralded teammates—All-American cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne, but he still quietly managed to put together a fantastic sophomore campaign. The supremely athletic free safety finished tied with Mathieu for the team lead with 76 total tackles, and he also racked up two interceptions, two forced fumbles and three pass breakups.
The biggest play that Reid made last year was also arguably the most important play of LSU’s 2011 season. The much talked about “Game of the Century” was tied at six with roughly 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter and Alabama was driving in for the go-ahead score. It looked like they were going to get it when quarterback A.J. McCarron hit tight end Michael Williams at the goal line, but the reliable Reid was the one who snatched it away at the last second and likely saved the Tigers from a defeat.
That one game-changing pick basically tells you all you need to know about the type of playmaker that the LSU safety really is. The 6’2’’, 208-pound junior has all of the intriguing traits—size, speed, agility, instincts, range, read and recognition skills, coverage awareness and overall playmaking ability—that you look for in an elite safety prospect.
Philadelphia’s Nate Allen is the NFL safety that Reid compares most favorably to, as they both share similar sturdy and strong frames and they both know how to find the football and make impact plays all over the field.
It’s no secret where Reid gets his great athletic genes from. His father, Eric Sr. was a three-time All-American hurdler at LSU back in the mid-80’s, and his son obviously benefited from some of that special DNA. Reid is truly one of the most physically gifted safeties that we’ve seen in the college game in years, and he’s clearly got the potential to take his game to new heights at the NFL level.
The former 4-star recruit out of Louisiana’s Dutchtown High School has been getting better and has continued to grow into an all-around safety in each of his two years in Baton Rouge. Now he’ll be looking to ascend to true star status in 2012, as he shows the college football world that he is the sport’s new showcase safety.
The 2013 safety class is shaping up to be a deep and talented group. Seniors such as Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro, USC’s T.J. McDonald, Alabama’s Robert Lester, Georgia’s Bacarri Rambo and Oregon’s John Boyett could be joined by a slew of potential early-entrant underclassmen such as Oklahoma’s Tony Jefferson, Georgia Tech’s Isaiah Johnson, Florida’s Matt Elam, Louisville’s Hakeem Smith and Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner.
Still, there’s not a safety in that group that Reid can’t go toe-to-toe with, which is why he has a great chance to ultimately end up as the first safety selected in next year’s draft.
Over the last five years, there have only been four safeties taken in the top 20, but Reid may soon be able to join that group if he plays up to his potential in 2012.
With standouts such as cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, defensive tackles Bennie Logan and Anthony Johnson and linebacker Kevin Minter all returning to the lineup, there is simply so much top-tier talent on LSU’s defense.
It’s never easy to share the spotlight with so many other great defensive playmakers, but Reid is the type of humble and dedicated player who puts the team’s success above his own personal glory, which is something that’s refreshing to finally see from an LSU defensive back.
Reid has all of the desired ingredients to be the SEC’s next great safety prospect, and it’s now time for him to show scouts that he’s got what it takes to be a first round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
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